History of the Lotus
The Lotus belongs to the monogeneric family Nelumbonaceae (from the native
Sinhalese  Nelum) of which there are only two species viz. Nelumbo lutea,
(aka. the, “American Lotus” or, “Yellow Lotus”) native to North America and
Hasu, Cm: Lianhua, H: Kamal). There are older references that incorrectly
place the Lotus in the family Nymphaceae (water lilles) where the Egyptian,
“Blue Lotus” can be found.  The Egyptian Blue Lotus is not, in fact, a Lotus at
all; it's a water-lily that was introduced into Egypt through Afghanistan. Today
the Lotus is nearly extinct in Africa but can easily be found in cultivation in
most parts of the world particularly its native lands in Asia from Vietnam to
Afghanistan where it is grown as both a food plant and an ornamental.  It is
the national flower of both India and Vietnam.
Wierd But Fun Lotus Facts
Along with certain species of Taro, Lotus leaves exhibit a hydrophilic property
known as the, “Lotus Effect.”  Water dropped onto the leaves will bead in a fashion
similar to water on a newly waxed car and simply roll off the leaf.  The mechanism
is being studied to apply it to automotive paints - imagine never having to wash
your car!   It's also being considered in nanotechnology applications... itty bitty
cleaning robots?
An approximately 1,300 year-old Lotus seed found at the bottom of a dry lakebed
in Northern China successfully germinated into a mature plant, making it one of
the oldest surviving viable seeds ever found.  A 2002 paper in the American
Journal of Botany posits an unusually robust cellular repair mechanism in Lotus
seeds and suggests possible insights into aging mechanisms in other organisms.
 Neato!  For us nerds anyway...
A recent publication in the journal Nature describes an incredible ability of Lotus
plants; they are somehow able to regulate the temperature of their flowers!  It was
observed that despite prolonged air temperatures of only 50 degrees the flowers
were maintained at a steady 86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In our own nursery, we've
checked and the flowers are steadily warmer than the surrounding air. (81/65 for us)
It helps attract pollinating insects, in case you were wondering.
The Hawai`i Connection: Captain Cook's Botanist
Of particular local interest to us here in Hawaii is how the Lotus first came to be
described to the West; through the work of Sir Joseph Banks, a British Naturalist
who accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage around the South Pacific as
the ship's resident Biologist.  (They called them Naturalists back then, not sure
why.)  Due to a timely  disagreement over ship-board accomodations, he
fortunately did not accompany Cook on his second voyage and survived to
introduce the plant in 1787 to European horticulturalists as the Stove Pipe Water
Lilly.